November 2000 News

Kashmir killings impact rest of the country: Report

9 November 2000
The Pioneer

Aurangabad: The acts of Pakistan-inspired mercenaries in Jammu and Kashmir have repercussions in far-flung areas of India, an alliance of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working for communal harmony has concluded after a state-wide survey in Gujarat. ''The scale and venom of violence is resulting in large-scale evacuation and resultant ghettoisation,'' the survey, which studied violence in Gujarat during a state-wide strike called in the aftermath of the Amarnath massacre, said. Thirty-four pilgrims were gunned down by militants in Pahalgam on August 1 while they were on their way to the Hindu shrine of Amarnath. The Gujarat strike was sponsored by the rightwing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP - World Hindu Council) and Bajrang Dal to protest the massacre of pilgrims. The state government had also extended support to the strike. A panel of academics, lawyers and human rights activists endorsed the survey findings at a ''public hearing'' in Gujarat''s principal city of Ahmedabad earlier this week. The public hearing held the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates, particularly the VHP and Bajrang Dal, responsible for violence. It also said violence was aimed at economically crippling the minority community. However, VHP international general secretary Pravin Togadia said violence was a spontaneous reaction of the people, outraged at the massacre of Hindu pilgrims by Pakistani-backed terrorists. ''Harming any specific community was not in our mind,'' he said. Seven persons lost their lives and property worth billions of rupees was damaged as the strike turned violent and acquired a communal colour, particularly in the industrial city of Surat and the backward Sabarkantha district. ''The dreaded finally happened. The cynically targeted bullets of Pakistan''s mercenaries that claimed the life of Hindu pilgrims headed for the Amarnath shrine caused a direct resonance in far-flung Gujarat. In Ahmedabad, Surat, Sabarkantha, Palanpur and Rajkot, Muslim business establishments were targeted by indigenous terrorist squads led by representatives belonging to the BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal,'' the survey report said. ''In Surat, property worth Rs. 100 million was lost due to the selective destruction of Muslim-owned power looms (four looms belonging to Muslims were totally gutted). In Modasa, of the 63 business establishments charred, 51 belonged to Muslims and 12 to Hindus. The loss is estimated at Rs. 15 million,'' the report added. However, Togadia denied that his organisation or its affiliates inspired the violence. ''These are people who do not want Hindus to express their concern,'' he said, referring to the NGOs and the ''jury'' of the public hearing. ''They are anti-India and anti-Hindu society. They have no integrity and have no relevance to Indian society. The VHP does not need a certificate from them,'' he added. The loss of seven human lives apart, the most noticeable trend in this round of minority bashing was that it aimed to economically cripple the minority community, the report said. ''The strike exposed the lawlessness of not merely the VHP-Bajrang Dal squads but also of the BJP''s elected representatives. They destroyed a shrine in Ahmedabad, stoned the district administration office in Rajkot, destroyed 40 government buses, attacked the Biria Secondary High School in Porbandar and attacked St. Xavier''s Society schools in Meghraj and Billimoria. It was well-planned anarchy to paralyse, threaten and browbeat even the law and order machinery,'' the report said. It also noted the minority community''s helplessness. ''Some of them have left their homes out of fear, some have stayed on where they have been living for years and some have sought refuge in public places like railway stations for want of other accommodation,'' the report said. NGOs like Quami Ekta Trust, Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, Sahrwaru, Peoples'' Union for Human Rights, Samvad, Insaf and others were involved in the survey carried out in Ahmedabad, Surat and Sabarkantha in August.


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